(Once a month John Michael Greer’s blog Ecosophia hosts an “open post” where he encourages readers to ask him questions about any of the topics he tends to write about. I always want to participate, but my Wednesday afternoons are particularly busy and so, by the time the weekend rolls around I assume he has moved on to other things. Since all of the topics I’d like to engage him on relate to my favorite themes on RationalUrbanism I thought one way to deal with this would be to write my post to JMG as an essay on my blog!)
I’m a long time reader and I have especially enjoyed your books Dark Age America, and Decline and Fall. While at the same time I do not want to read too much into something you’ve explained in recent interviews as a desire to be better connected in terms of public transportation and a need to have better access to medical care, it is true that all of the people I regularly listen to or read whose views align with mine regarding societal decline, economic discontinuity, and climate disruption have ended up in or, in the case of Jim Kunstler, very close to New England.
As a New Englander myself I must admit that I am not here primarily because I view its prospects as superior in terms of coping with catabolic collapse, but rather because I feel an emotional attachment to the region, but is it coincidence that you, JHK, Chris Martenson, and KMO are all so close by?
(Lots o’ brick, not many front yards…my house is in the center of the first photograph)
Springfield, Massachusetts and Providence have differences to be sure, but as major New England metro centers they do have quite a lot in common as well. As I’ve listened to your most recent interviews and read your blog posts since your move to East Providence I’ve been interested in learning about your vision of the place; I would love to hear and read more! Some relatively minor things which are different here from what you’ve described in Rhode Island are the construction and design of the houses as well as the condition of things like libraries and schools. In my neighborhood nearly every house is made of brick, there are few front yards, and the libraries and the schools are mostly in better condition than they have been for decades and decades.
(Some local libraries and schools…I took this first picture to capture the mural, there are many, many books in this library as well…really!)
Also, your take on the state of public education does not resemble in any way my experience. Reaching young people in the age of the “smart phone” is not easy, but the Social Studies teachers in my public high school are not good, they are spectacular. Children receive a very nuanced view of history and are offered an opportunity to really understand the nature of the Constitution, for example, why it was constructed the way it was and in whose interests. They debate empire and its impact on our society from multiple perspectives. As a Spanish teacher I can tell you that we read Allende, Borges, García Márquez, García Lorca, and Cervantes and we, again for example, discuss how similar the current urban/rural divide in the United States is to what Spain was experiencing in the 19th and early 20th centuries in its debates over tradition versus progress, and how we see still more similarities with the Yellow Vest movement and Brexit. We read San Manuel Bueno, mártir by Unamuno and discuss its connection to the aforementioned debate, its roots in Gnosticism, and its similarities the philosophy of Leo Strauss, and to the movie The Matrix.
My daughters took a course dedicated to epistemology their first year in their (Category 5, “failing” under No Child Left Behind) urban public high school and went on to learn things far surpassing anything I learned in high school a generation earlier. There is much in our society which distracts children and sends the message that education isn’t important, but to claim that schools no longer offer challenging curriculum does not hold true, at least in this part of New England.
Springfield invests a great deal in vocational training as well. The reconstructed Putnam Vocational High School is the most popular (students here choose high schools based on interest)choice in the city right now. I recommend Diane Ravitch’s Reign of Error or, better yet, volunteer at your neighborhood school. I’d be interested to hear what you think about what you experience!